Governor Jack Markell today proposed Clean Water for Delaware's Future a comprehensive plan for protecting public health and cleaning up Delaware's bays, rivers and streams within a generation, while creating jobs and strengthening Delaware's economy.
Governor Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara made the announcement at the DuPont Environmental Education Center overlooking the Christina River, which has some of the highest levels of toxic pollutants in the state. They were joined by state and local elected officials, leaders of the state's business community and representatives of state and regional environmental organizations.
Clean Water for Delaware's Future will generate additional funding for wastewater, stormwater and drinking water projects throughout the state. Funds will be used to support projects that will:
Remove toxics and restore streams and rivers;
Repair and update wastewater and drinking water treatment plants;
Modernize stormwater infrastructure in communities to improve flood and storm resilience;
Support conservation/agricultural practices that prevent pollutants from reaching surface and ground waters;
Protect and restore critical natural resources like wetlands and forests that help purify water and mitigate flooding; and
Make important upgrades to industries, which will systematically reduce impacts to water resources.
Most of Delaware's waters do not meet water quality standards for their designated uses -- drinking, swimming and supporting fish and other aquatic life. The state's list of impaired waters includes 377 bodies of water that suffer from excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), low dissolved oxygen, toxics, and bacteria. Extensive analysis of chemical contaminants in fish has led to advisories that fish are unsafe to eat in more than 30 waterways statewide.
Over the next five years, more than $500 million in wastewater facility upgrades are needed statewide. These include priority projects in all three counties --including underserved communities needing wastewater and drinking water improvements and several at-risk systems currently operated by homeowners associations in Sussex County. More than $150 million in stormwater upgrades are needed across the state, in addition to more than $75 million for removing toxics and more than $75 million in upgrades at industrial facilities.
The existing Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan programs currently have about $30 million annually available to fund wastewater and drinking water projects -- not nearly enough to finance many of the critical projects.
Clean Water for Delaware's Future will generate $30 million annually from a household clean water fee of less than $1 a week and a proportionate fee for larger users. The fee, which will be indexed to inflation and collected through county property taxes, will leverage more than $120 million in total financing annually for clean water investments and support more than 1,000 jobs per year in science, engineering and construction.
Revenues from the Clean Water for Delaware's Future fee, along with clean water/drinking water federal revolving fund capitalization grants, other state funds, other federal grants and funding from private foundations, are estimated to be allocated as follows:
Wastewater/Drinking Water Upgrades: 30%;
Stormwater Upgrades: 30%;
Conservation/Agriculture Projects: 15%;
Toxics Removal/Site Cleanup/Stream Restoration: 20%; and
Industrial Upgrades: 5%.
The Clean Water for Delaware's Future Fund will help finance these projects through a combination of low or no-interest loans, affordability grants, credit enhancements, matches for federal grants, and leveraged private financing, all of which will reduce the cost of constructing clean water projects for municipalities and other entities.
Statements from the Governor, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and others supporting the plan
Governor Jack Markell said: "Clean water is essential for a healthy and prosperous Delaware. We have made great strides reducing air pollution and cleaning up brownfield sites, yet nearly every waterway in Delaware, other than our beaches, remains unsafe for swimming and fishing and nearly every community is struggling with more frequent flooding and storms. Clean Water for Delaware's Future will invest in projects that improve water quality, improve community resiliency, protect our health and safety, support our multi-billion dollar tourism and agriculture industries, bolster the economic revitalization of our cities and towns, and increase property values--all while creating thousands of jobs for years to come."